National Connections, Local Ownership
National Connections, Local Ownership

The Answer to the Tech Shortage: Don’t Cut Out Half the US Population

Having trouble recruiting technicians? Maybe you’re not looking in the right place.

I have written so many times about the shortage of technicians in our industry. It is a subject, along with the driver shortage, that is discussed at most industry meetings and in virtually all trade publications. In the past, I’ve written about the need to attract millennials; how to transform the image of the job; how to promote intergenerational collaboration. Yet in all of that, there is one issue that is yet to be covered in debt…and that issue is gender.

That’s why I was very pleased to read an article in FleetOwner last week that offered a possible…and sensible…answer to our shortage. More than half of the U.S. population (50.5%) across all ages is female. When it comes to the workforce between the ages of 20 to 49, that number is only slightly less (approximately 48.7%). So why cut off access to half of the potential workforce?

There has always been a gender bias when it comes to specific occupations; that is one of the main reasons why a lot of educators are emphasizing the need to train and recruit women for jobs in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) field. It is also true in other jobs that have always been dominated by men…but that is changing. There are women fighter pilots; women helicopter pilots; even combat roles (though small…in 2018, just under 800 women served in combat roles) for those in our military. So perhaps it is time for our industry to look at this potentially huge but untapped resource.

As the job description evolves, so should the workforce makeup

The tech job of today is vastly different from the tech job of yesterday. Yes, techs still need to be able to perform PM and basic maintenance repairs; however, we all know how incredibly complex and tech-focused today’s trucks are. The “heavy lifting” today is very much focused on capability from the neck up. Plus, when it comes to tasks that require a specific amount of body strength, not every male tech has that strength. That is where teamwork comes in.

The FleetOwner article quotes Tyson Sontag, a former TMC SuperTech winner and current high school diesel technology teacher who admitted, “By the industry not looking to hire more women, I think they’re missing out, quite honestly.” What Sontag did find among the few female students he attracts to his classes, were that they were “more detail-oriented, kept tidier work stations with parts sequenced, and while not as fast as the boys, their work is right the first time.”

Recruitment efforts need to change as well

Unfortunately, bias and misconceptions are hard things to erase, but fleets should consider looking outside their own stereotypes to find good workers. In 2017, a woman, Bonnie Greenwood from Wyoming became the first female champ of TMC FutureTech, the student version of SuperTech. She was hired by FedEx Freight soon after.

The Women in Trucking Association has been around since 2007, promoting the idea of hiring more women for traditionally male jobs in the trucking industry. Most of the focus has been on drivers or management; but now Ellen Voie, founder and CEO of the organization says the same issues that created the need for her organization when it comes to drivers, is true for technicians as well. As she notes, “These days, there’s no reason why women can’t do the job. It’s not as physically demanding as it once was.”

But what this means that employers may have to reassess the way they currently recruit techs. Because if not, according to Voie, “You just eliminated half the population because that doesn’t attract women.”

Read Jane’s blog on big changes in the ways companies are recruiting technicians

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